High Points of the Memorandum by the Council of Legal Education (Nigerian Law School)
This memorandum is presented in response to the Notice of Public Hearing with Ref No. NASS/S/CJHL/024/01/PH.6/2021/04 dated 27th October, 2021, requesting for comments from the relevant stakeholders and the general public, with respect to three Bills that have passed second reading at the Plenary of the Senate of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
This memorandum by the Council of Legal Education is in response to the following Bills:
(1) Legal Education (Consolidation, Etc) Act L10 LFN 2004 (Amendment Bill 2021) (S8.820)
(2) Legal Practitioners Act, Cap L11 LFN 2004 (Repeal and and Re-Enactment) Bill, 2021
The Council of Legal Education (CLE) was established pursuant to the provisions of Legal Education Act in 1962, to set up and supervise the Nigerian Law School, as well as design a curriculum for the school to provide Bar vocational training for aspirants to the Nigerian Bar.
Response of the CLE/NLS to the Issues Raised by NASS for Proposing Additional Campuses for the Nigerian Law School
The Council of Legal Education/Nigerian Law School deeply appreciates the concern of the NASS for Council of Legal Education/Nigerian Law School in the effective discharge of its statutory duties, to wit:
i. establishment of the Nigerian Law School to provide Bar vocational training for aspirants to the Nigerian Bar;
ii. approval of the curriculum for the training of the students of the Nigerian Law School; and
iii. Accreditation of the LL.B programmes of the Faculties of Law in Nigeria.
It is the humble view of the Council of Legal Education/Nigerian Law School that, the establishment of additional Campuses for the Nigerian Law School is most inauspicious and perhaps, misplaced for the following reasons:
(1) The six campuses of the Nigerian Law School currently admit less than 6000 annually, as against their potential in-take capacity of about 10,000 if the Campuses are strengthened and consolidated. The current in-take capacity per campus of the NLS is as follows:
a. Bwari, Headquarters – 1,650
b. Lagos – 1,300
c. Kano – 1,200
d. Enugu – 1,200
e. Yenogoa – 450
f. Yola – 400
g. Port Harcourt – projected at 1200
Total – 5,800 + Port Harcourt Campus (1, 200)=6,000
Expansion of the facilities in the six campuses plus the newly approved Campus in Port Harcourt, will be more than enough to cater for the additional students from the newly approved Faculties of Law.
On the Need to Alleviate the 30% failure rate at the Bar Final Examinations
Creating more campuses, does not address the failure rate. At any rate, consistently attaining a 70% pass rate at the Bar Final examinations, is a commendable feat that does not happen in sister professional examinations in Nigeria, such as Medicine, Accounting, to mention a few.
On the Issue of Backlog of Students from the Law Faculties Waiting for Admission into the NLS
This should not be used as a reason for additional campuses of the NLS. The CLE/NLS make bold to state that, every student from accredited Faculties of Law come to the NLS as and when due.
Law as a regulated profession, must be shielded from flagrant abuse of the allotted quota by Faculties of Law, if the dignity and nobility of the profession is to be preserved. Rather, concerted efforts should be made at enforcing the Quota-Per-Faculty of Law, as allocated by the CLE in collaboration with the National Universities Commission (NUC).
Any student denied admission by the NLS today, will be because the Faculty of Law where the student graduated over-admitted. New campuses should not be established to compensate belligerent Faculties of Law in Nigeria; rather, they should be sanctioned.
Having regard to the current state of the economy, the cost implication of establishing the new campuses is not sustainable. The proposed sum of N31.2 billion mentioned by the mover of the Bill, is grossly inadequate.
Available precedents for establishment of campuses of institutions, is always left to the institution; it is not by legislative intervention. Already, the CLE has developed a well articulated draft policy, on the establishment of new campuses of the Nigerian Law School.
What the CLE needs at the moment, is increased funding to enable the current campuses run more effectively.
Reference to the establishment of campuses of Nigerian Law School based on geographical spread, should not be a reason for the establishment of new campuses across the country. The existing campuses, have reasonably taken care of the geographical spread.
The increase in the number of Universities offering law courses is also not a good reason for the establishment of more campuses, because Council of Legal Education through a well-structured accreditation of the institutions, regulates the admission of students based on available facilities and carrying capacities.
To maintain the high standard expected of legal practitioners trained in Nigeria, Council of Legal Education has always given priority to quality, rather than the quantity of persons that qualify to be called to the Nigerian Bar.
Council of Legal Education can guarantee Nigerians that, it is well alive to its responsibility as a regulatory institution on legal education in Nigeria. So, there is no ‘imminent disaster’ in our legal industry whatsoever.
Apart from the fact that the economic realities of our country can hardly support the creation of six (6) additional campuses, the Honourable Attorney-General of the Federation and the Council of Legal Education are better placed by the establishing statute, i.e., the Legal Education (Consolidation) Act, Cap L18 LFN 2004, to take necessary steps as they have done in the past, to expand the number of campuses of the NLS.
Needless to say that the responsibility of establishing campuses of the Nigeria Law School and funding same, is the exclusive preserve of the Executive arm of the Federal Government, and not that of the Legislature.
1. Inclusion of the Director-General of the NLS, as an official member of the Body of Benchers.
2. The One (1) Year Mandatory Pupillage Programme
Composition and Proceedings of Bar Council
At the Plenary of Body of Benchers held on Thursday 25th of February, 2021, it was resolved that the Chairman of Council of Legal Education, be included as a member of the Bar Council.
The idea of Pupillage is salutary, but, in view of the above reasons, the time certainly is not now!
Chief Emeka Ngige, SAN, Chairman, Council of Legal Education and Professor Isa Chiroma, SAN, Director-General, Nigerian Law School